Genre: Biography, Drama, Thriller
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Kiera Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Mark Strong, Charles Dance
Released: 14th November 2014
Norwegian Director Morten Tyldum explores the shining achievements of Alan Turing, the “godfather” of computing. The film charts the not very well-known story of how Turing, with the help of his team of code-breakers including Joan Clarke (Knightly) and Hugh Alexander (Goode), break “Enigma”: a machine the Nazis used in for communications in World War 2.
Most biographical films tend to approach the protagonist’s life chronologically. What makes this film somewhat unique is that it begins with a police investigation into a burglary at Turing’s residence in 1951, and then alternates between scenes from the central storyline of breaking Enigma in 1939, and Turing’s early school days in 1922. While it may seem like the timeline of the film is quite erratic, it works smoothly by virtue of clever segues from one scene to the next (for example, Stewart Menzies’ remark to Turing, “Popular at school were you?” before the film transitions to a scene from Turing’s school days.) Turing’s commentary in places is intended as narration and does fill in some gaps in the film’s storyline, but the narration is always delivered with the full force of Turing’s personality.
A highlight in the film can be seen in the subtle emotions Cumberbatch exudes in his now Oscar-nominated performance. Turing is a mathematical genius, though not very socially savvy, as evidenced in his interview with Denniston (Dance), where he is unable to recognise the naval officer’s sarcasm and carries on indifferently. In this same scene we also see the other side of Turing’s personality, namely his arrogance at his own abilities. When Denniston explains that everyone thinks enigma is unbreakable, Turing fires back: “Good. Let me try and we’ll know for sure, won’t we?”
The supporting players do a good job in helping humanise Turing with more individual attention payed to Joan Clarke (Knightley), one of his only close friends. She helps Turing to befriend the other members of his team, in his own way at least, with an apple and a speedily-told joke used to help break the ice.
At the heart of The Imitation Game lie several truths: that secrets can take their toll, particularly in times of war; that from the ashes of these secrets, good things can yet be accomplished; and that people “who no-one imagines anything of can do things no one can imagine”, and change the world.